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Zika Virus Funding Met With Caution in Congress

Roll Call

Monday, February 8, 2016

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Capitol Hill leaders responded cautiously to President Barack Obama’s announcement Monday that he would ask Congress to provide $1.8 million in emergency funding to bolster the response to the Zika virus.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is set to brief Senate leaders and relevant committee leaders Tuesday on the virus, which is typically spread through mosquitoes and has been linked to a birth defect. The World Health Organization last week declared the virus a global health emergency.

Obama will send his budget for 2017 to Congress on Tuesday, and leaders have pledged to give it serious consideration…

On Wednesday, two House Foreign Affairs subcommittees will have a joint hearing on the outbreak. The Senate Help, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on Feb. 24 to learn more about the virus and what can be done to prevent its spread. HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he plans to ask about the president’s funding request at the hearing. Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have also requested briefings said they also intend to hold a hearing on the virus as well.

Anand Parekh of the Bipartisan Policy Center expects members of both parties will support the administration’s request.

“When it comes to these types of emergency requests, you generally see favorable bipartisan reactions,” Parekh said Monday. “We saw that in 2005 with bird flu, in 2009 with H1N1, and again in 2014 with Ebola. In those instances, there was a bipartisan consensus that we need to do something.